Dragon Age: Dreadwolf Is Taking Lessons From Dragon Age 2

They say slow and steady wins the race, which is why I'm only now getting around to writing about the Dragon Age: Dreadwolf leaks. To tell you the truth, I was scared. I have fallen out of love with the big triple-A scene lately, with double-A adventures and indie mavericks holding more charm than big, bombastic offerings which all seem variations on the same theme. The only thing I caught of the Dreadwolf leaks without actively looking for them was the inventory screen, which seemed (like all modern RPGs) to be a litany of minor customisable features on various parts of the body to create an oversaturated mess. The leg bone's connected to the +4.5 percent damage to corrupted enemies bone, and all that. It didn't make for happy reading, but thankfully I eventually dove in.

I'm particularly worried about Dragon Age because it's one of the few massive series I still find myself caring about. Though I prefer its cousin, Mass Effect, BioWare's space saga has burned me with Andromeda and the tease that the next game will continue the Shepard arc does not entice me. Mass Effect's similarity to Anthem means it has a sour taste to it, while Dragon Age got out clean. Aside from Spider-Man 2 and the probably-still-three-years-away-at-least Tomb Raider, Dragon Age is the only behemoth I'm holding a candle for. But I've always been worried the wax is going to melt down and blister my hands. Finally, I have some hope.

The reception to the leaks has been lukewarm, which was another reason to feel wary. Of course, if everyone loved them it would feel like unnecessary hype, and everyone hating them isn't exactly ideal either, so I guess there's no way to win. But a shrug does not elicit excitement, and it wasn't until I saw the leaks myself that I understood – Dragon Age: Dreadwolf looks like Dragon Age 2.

Dragon Age is a fairly unique series in that all three of its games are connected narratively, and share the foundations of gameplay conventions, but all offer fairly different experiences. Dragon Age: Origins is far more of a classic RPG, with the deep lore, slower and more tactical gameplay, and the understanding that you will spend a long time doing very little and will probably enjoy it. Dragon Age 2 is far quicker, more of an action combat game with explosive battles, charismatic characters, and spectacle after spectacle. Inquisition tried to combine these two, and Hinterlands aside, did an impressive job. Inquisition can be played slowly and methodically, and allows you to set up your party in ways that combine and aid your central inquisitor, and has plenty of fields to roam in aimlessly in the name of narrative immersion, but also lets you star as a magical Bruce Willis who casts spells first and asks questions later. You can let the more grounded fantasy parts of the game play themselves, or you can take full control.

My personal favourite has always been Dragon Age 2, though on some level I recognise it as the worst. It was heavily rushed during development, leading to dungeons being repeated and a lot of the mystique of Dragon Age being shorn off. It's a testament to the writers that the characters are still so bursting with life despite being hurried out the door, while on the gameplay side the devs sensed repetitive settings were better than repetitive combat, so Dragon Age 2 manages to seem fresh even when the world around it does not. Now, Dragon Age: Dreadwolf seems like the Dragon Age 2 we would have gotten if it weren't rushed.

In Dreadwolf, you can only control the protagonist rather than take over your companions. This is how it has always been in Mass Effect, and feels like Dragon Age admitting the more tactical approach to gameplay no longer suits it. While some will be disappointed to see it go, the fact is few players used it as intended, instead jumping into their favourite character to try out a new weapon or to keep fighting after the protagonist was dead. It was designed as a D&D-style way to cleverly manoeuvre your party, but it's outdated for Dragon Age's modern speed and ditching it is probably the right move.

Despite the RPG stat farce of the inventory screen, Dreadwolf seems to be aiming for speed and power over meticulous thought. It could prove to be a divisive approach, but it's one I'm fully on board for, and so long as it can bring the character warmth and inventive combat the series is known for, it could be a huge advancement for the series.

However you feel about your favourite Dragon Age, you have to admit that 'Dragon Age 2 but in more than one city and the dungeons don't suck' is a helluva pitch. That seems to be what Dreadwolf is aiming for, and if it sticks the landing, it could be the best Dragon Age yet – inventory screen be damned.

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